Denmark and Finland both announced Thursday that they would halt future arms exports to Saudi Arabia, following a similar decision by neighboring Germany earlier this month. The Danish and Finnish announcements come the same week President Donald Trump backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the CIA assessing that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Denmark’s ban includes goods that can be used both for military and civilian purposes but is still less expansive than the German measures, which also included sales that had already been approved.
While the Nordic countries are tiny arms equipment exporters in comparison with bigger players such as the U.S., Britain or France, their decision will probably exacerbate concerns within the European arms industry of a growing anti-Saudi consensus in the European Union and beyond.
Even though Trump has suggested that he will put Saudi investments and arms exports revenue above human rights concerns, lawmakers across the political spectrum and on both sides of the Atlantic have grown increasingly alarmed.
Apart from the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October, a Saudi-led coalition has been accused of numerous human rights violations in Yemen since 2015. On Wednesday, international humanitarian organization Save the Children said that 85,000 children had starved to death there since the beginning of the intervention.
Speaking on Danish television Thursday, Denmark’s foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, confirmed that the “continued worsening of the already terrible situation in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi” had led to the exports ban. He urged other EU members to also re-evaluate their stances.
On Thursday, Finland also stopped arms equipment exports to the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen. In its announcement, the Finnish government explicitly cited the “alarming humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
While Denmark, Finland and Germany are being celebrated by human rights advocates, bigger arms exporters have pointed out that the nations have far less to lose domestically than others.